DION to MOUNT OLYMPUS
This is our little bus – it is very comfortable inside and there is lots of room – the heat has not died down – so it’s lucky for us that there is air conditioning and also lots of trees around when we arrive at the Archeological Park. Christos tells us he is not a licensed guide and cannot come in with us but he gives us directions on the best things to see and which way to go. He tells us that this park is the most important archaeological site in the Mount Olympus area. He also advises that our first discovery should be his favourite – the Sanctuary of Isis – it is about a 10 minute walk down the path through the trees – although you cannot walk through the sanctuary as it is now part of a swamp area – so off I go – the rest of the group are still deciding what to do next. By the time they decide I am at the Sanctuary of Isis – – time to use the imagination – –
The ancient inhabitants of Dion first built a sanctuary devoted to Aphrodite, as the goddess of the foothills of Olympus, and Artemis, as the goddess of childbirth. In the 2nd century BC, Artemis was succeeded by the Egyptian goddess Isis. As you can see, Christos was right – it is a swamp but you can still use the wooden walkway to walk through and get close up.
The buildings of the sanctuary date back to the 2nd century AD, but ruins of older structures have been found underneath. Numerous statues and inscriptions in the sanctuary date to the Hellenist period.
The four-columned temple in the centre was dedicated to Isis Lochia, the goddess protecting women following childbirth. A relief on the facade depicting the goddess holding a sheaf and sceptre was discovered here.
In the north wing the large statue of a woman stands on its pedestal. It was placed there in the middle of the 2nd century AD by the city of Dion, in honour of the donator Loulia Frougiane Alexandra.
To the right there is a small temple of Aphrodite Hypolympidia whose charming statue is reflected on the water of the marble pool. To the left, the statue of Isis Tyche stands in the small temple beside a sacred spring which still spills its water throughout the building.
The elongated pathway flanked by low walls, presumably symbolized the Nile, the sacred river of Egypt. The two marble bulls on the steps of the central altar depicted the Egyptian god Apis.
The Isis festival took place every Spring and Autumn. During that time, the area outside the sanctuary walls flooded with villagers, craftsmen and merchants who sold animals, gold and silver artefacts, and a wide variety of merchandise. However, only the initiated pilgrims could enter the sanctuary, where they spent the night waiting for the great goddess to visit their dreams and listen to their prayers.
Looking at the Sanctuary today that takes one lot of imagination! Christos was right – it is an amazing place and what a bonus – not a tourist in sight.
Next stop – the Odeum (below left) and the Great Baths (below right).
Since the thermal baths also served as a place for social gatherings, an Odeon was built for social events such as readings, plays, or musical performances in the complex. The shops and toilets were still part of the thermal baths.
Built in the 2nd century AD, the Odeon is part of the large thermal baths. The outer mass is 28.46m by 19.46m and had 400 seats arranged in the form of an amphitheatre around the semi-circular orchestra.
The excavations of the Odeon began in September 1977 and lasted for two years.The elements of an ancient theatre with orchestra, four interior staircases, stage and two L-shaped staircases were found.
The carefully executed stonework combines Roman architecture with local craftsmanship with the wall built of limestone or burnt bricks.
The excavations also revealed how the building was destroyed. The great cracks in the walls, as well as the lowering of the ground and some walls, indicate a strong earthquake with subsequent fire. In 1990, excavations were once again carried out to measure the entire ground plan of the Odeon for the planned restoration; shards from the classic period were found.
The great thermal baths were built in the 2nd century AD. All the thermal baths have the same structure as they have a pool with cold water basins and other basins with differently tempered water. The type of heating lying under the floor is the same for all mentioned thermal baths.
Another Christos ‘must see’ is the monument of shields dedicated by Alexander the Great on his victory over Persians at Granicus.
This represents the soldiers who died in the battle and who were never to be forgotten.
The battle in May 334 BC was the first of three major battles fought between Alexander and the Persian Empire. Fought near the site of Troy, it was here that Alexander defeated the Persian forces including a large force of Greek mercenaries led by Memnon of Rhodes.
This is a site that could do with more information boards, but I am running out of time and I have just about seen everything that Christos has mentioned so it is time to head back down the paths to the entrance.
On the path back, there is a water fountain where we can get a cold drink or fill our bottles, and I must admit the water is wonderful – I also decide to buy some iced tea from the little kiosk and sit in the shade because it is soon time to head for Mount Olympus – the Home of the Gods.
Unfortunately we do not get to see the summit of Mount Olympus due to the ever increasing cloud but I am sure that I will still get the feeling of being in close proximity to Zeus and the crew. We drive through some very narrow streets at Olympus – just big enough for our little bus and soon we are parked in the area. Christos tells us we now have to walk up a level walkway – not many steps – so that we can actually feel the park.
The walk through Epinea Gorge is very relaxing – we can take our time and yes, I do get a feeling for the area. I think this is a great area to house the ancient Gods – it is very remote and also one with nature.
The pathway does not go all the way to the top and Christos decides to end our walk at the Spring of Artemis. For the life of me I cannot find information on the web about this. I do remember that Christos told us a tale of Artemis and the pool but I am at a loss to relate it to you. Sometimes I think travel guides just make things up!
Our walk back down is nice and leisurely, and after we buy the usual souvenir fridge magnet from the local craftsman we get back on the bus and head for lunch just down the road at Litochoro. There are several dining options but I choose Meze Meze, a very quaint place that has either inside or outside dining. It is a lovely day and I choose a seat in the shade. I am not very hungry so I decide on a nice Greek Salad which costs 8 Euros. Splendid service.
Look at the size of that salad. It is humongous, so crunchy fresh with light dressing and I am determined to eat as much of it as I can – I did leave some feta. Served with oh so fresh herb bread and oh so icy water.
I am full – so time to walk around and take a few photos of the town. Such a lovely place – you can see how narrow the streets are.
I will really have to rest up as tomorrow takes me on another tour – to Pella and Vergina – land of King Phillip II and his famous son – Alexander the Great.